The Orange jumped out to a quick 10-2 lead with four starters getting on the board before the 15 minute mark of the game. Rutgers would peck away at the lead and eventually tie the game at 14 when Corey Chandler completed an old-fashioned three point play, but after that it was all Orange.
Syracuse went on a 24-4 run that was spearheaded by some deadeye outside shooting from Jonny Flynn and some solid all-around play from Donte Greene and Paul Harris. The Orange focused on attacking the basket and breaking down the Rutgers defense, taking only 3 shots from beyond the arc in the first half.
The focus on playmaking was especially apparent for Scoop Jardine, who handed out 5 first half assists despite not scoring a single point. His offensive awareness helped to free up Flynn on the perimeter and set up Harris to work the baseline.
Syracuse went into the break with a 38-22 lead, but it could easily have been bigger. Once again, the 'Cuse failed to close out the first half in a positive manner. This is becoming an alarming trend, as it seems that game after game the opposition has made momentum-changing plays going into the break.
In this case, Hamady Ndiaye was called for an intentional foul on Paul Harris with less than a minute remaining in the half and SU sporting a 37-18 lead. Syracuse had an opportunity to hit 2 free throws, score on the ensuing possession and execute a 2-for-1 to ensure the last shot of the half. Instead, Harris made only one of two freebies, the Orange threw the ball away on their next two possessions and Rutgers scored on a jumper and tip-in at the buzzer. This turn of events trimmed a possible 24+ point lead down to 16 points.
Fortunately, the opponent was Rutgers and they were not able to capitalize on the momentum, but against a better team Syracuse cannot afford to make these kinds of blunders late in the first half (see: West Virginia).
On a positive note for the Orange, they came out of the locker-room ready to play and extended their lead up to a high of 32 points when Jonny Flynn made a lay-in at the 9:18 mark. Boeheim emptied his bench and got substantial playing time for Rick Jackson (9pts), Kristof Ongenaet (4 rebs), Justin Thomas (1 ast), and Sean Williams (2 pts).
The real story for Syracuse was the play of the trio of Flynn, Greene, and Harris. Flynn was coming off two very sub-par games, but rebounded by making big shots and taking the ball to the basket with purpose and poise. Greene cut down on the crazy long-range jumpers that were coming early in the shot clock, but still managed to pour in 19 points. Harris was in full "do-it-all" mode with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists.
The Orange now prepare for Saturday's noon home game against Villanova. This game is extremely important as the team travels to Washington DC the following day for a Big Monday showdown against Georgetown on January 21st. SU fans everywhere would feel a little more comfortable going into that game with a 4-2 Big East record rather than a 3-3 mark.